This spell guide is dedicated to the uses and abuses of elemental weapon. In addition to a basic rundown of what the spell is, we will go into who should be casting it, when they should cast it, and how they should cast it.
- Casting Time: 1 action
- Range: Touch
- Duration: 1 hour
- School: Transmutation
- Class: Paladin, Forge Domain, Hexblade, Artificer
- Level: 3
- Damage/Effect: Enchants one nonmagical weapon
- Attack/Save: None
- Components: V,S
- Ritual / Concentration: Yes
A nonmagical weapon you touch becomes a magic weapon. Choose one of the following damage types: acid, cold, fire, lightning, or thunder. For the duration, the weapon has a +1 bonus to attack rolls and deals an extra 1d4 damage of the chosen type when it hits.
At Higher Levels. When you cast this spell using a spell slot of 5th or 6th level, the bonus to attack rolls increases to +2, and the extra damage increases to 2d4. When you use a spell slot of 7th level or higher, the bonus increases to +3, and the extra damage increases to 3d4.
Spell Tags: DAMAGE BUFF
Available For: PALADIN FORGE DOMAIN THE HEXBLADE ARTIFICER
Player’s Handbook, pg. 237
What Does Elemental Weapon Do?
Simply put, elemental weapon makes a nonmagical weapon into a magical weapon that deals extra elemental damage in addition to what you normally throw.
Depending on the level of the spell slot you use to cast elemental weapon, that damage will increase or decrease.
Is Elemental Weapon a Good Spell?
Yes, elemental weapon is a good spell for characters who use weapons. However, it can seem underwhelming to those of us who played Dungeons and Dragons 3e back in the day. The magic item rules in 3e were much more robust, and using a 3rd-level spell slot to deal a scant 1d4 extra damage for only 1 minute seems a little unimpressive.
But for Dungeons and Dragons 5e, this is a fair shake. Damages, Hit Points, and Armor Classes are much more balanced and heavily nerfed than they were in 3e, and it took a decade or so of rule development in 3e to learn that. So yes, elemental damage is actually a good spell when used for martial characters.
Who Can Cast It vs. Who Should Cast It?
Paladins and Hexblades can cast this spell, and they most definitely should cast it. These characters rely on weapons heavily; even the Hexblade who has eldritch blast would do well to carry this spell since it overlaps with many of their weapon-based abilities.
Forge Domain clerics should consider the spell, especially as it can buff allies, but for a 3rd-level spell slot, they would probably do well taking a different spell. Clerics do not need to rely on weapon attacks as other classes do.
Artificers should not take this spell at all. If an Artificer uses a weapon as their main attack, they will more than likely use their Artificer infusions on the weapon, which will then make it a magic item and therefore unavailable for this spell.
When Should They Cast It?
Players with this spell should cast it when they know a fight is about to start. It takes an entire action to start, so unless you get a bonus action to attack, you will be using a turn. In addition, this is a concentration spell, so you will need to pair it with other spells that do not require concentration.
For example, do not cast blur while elemental weapon is active. They both require concentration, and so one of those spells will necessarily end. Cast elemental weapon, and then take other instant 3rd-level spells like blink, counterspell, or dispel magic.
What Spells or Abilities Does Elemental Weapon Work With?
Elemental Weapon is a concentration spell like most of the other combat-oriented spells. This means, unfortunately, that you can not use your improved weapon with other spells like Magic Weapon, Branding Smite, Blur, Shadow Blade, etc. You’ll have to get creative here as you build your strategies and think, “What can I do when I’m not attacking?”
You can impose debuffs, you can counterspell, you can cast shield, and you can cure your allies. But remember, this spell wears off after 1 minute, so on any turn you don’t attack, you are potentially wasting this expensive and short-lived spell.
Also, I would be way out of line if I forgot to mention the Elemental Adept Feat. This feat will allow your elemental weapon to overcome damage resistance to a certain element and will allow you to reroll damage for the extra damage die as well. Make sure you take that feat if you plan on casting elemental weapon often.
For DMs: When To Bend the Rules of Elemental Weapon for Flavor and Roleplaying
We are big fans of the Rule of Cool around here, so you should absolutely bend the rules as often as you can.
One of my favorite ways to use elemental weapon is to make it an environmental feature. Perhaps the PCs walk under a waterfall or stick their blade in a magic forge. A PC could sacrifice themself and jump in front of a lightning bolt. They could do any number of things that could temporarily enchant their weapon as per the mechanics of this spell. You could still even require concentration if you like.
Another way to use elemental weapon is as a magic item, like a powder or an oil that works temporarily. You could also allow certain types of characters to add it to their spell list even if it isn’t there.
If you have a player who is a Storm Sorcerer or a Dragon Sorcerer and takes every spell they can of a certain element, why not let them have elemental weapon as well? They won’t need to use it for themselves, but it would be worth it to see what they can think up!
Finally, another way to boost this spell is to allow the higher spell slots to be divided up amongst any number of weapons. Normally, a 5th-level spell slot will give you a +2 and +2d4 damage. What if you took that +2 and +2d4 and turned it into +1 and +1d4 to two different weapons? This suddenly makes the spell infinitely more useful for support characters.
Common Questions About Elemental Weapon
Does Pact of the Blade Work for Elemental Weapon and Hex Blade?
Yes. You can add the effects of elemental weapon to your hex weapon and your pact blade. The Improved Pact Blade Invocation will grant you a +1 to attack and damage, but this will not stack with elemental weapon.
The Pact Blade weapon is nonmagical. When you cast elemental weapon, it temporarily becomes magical. The Improved Pact Blade Invocation grants a +1 to attack and damage “unless it is a magic weapon that already has a bonus to these rolls” (Player’s Handbook). Therefore, you gain all of the bonuses to your Pact Blade and the added d4 bonus to damage when you cast elemental weapon.
Can You Enchant Unarmed Attacks With Elemental Weapon?
Many DMs will say no. For those who say yes, I salute you.
Does This Stack With Primal Savagery, Then?
No. Primal Savagery changes your unarmed attack to deal 1d10 after making a melee spell attack.
Does Elemental Weapon Work With Shillelagh?
No. Shillelagh makes a weapon magical, which means elemental weapon will not work with it. Furthermore, elemental weapon makes a weapon magical, which means shillelagh will not work with it. It’s a pretty tight logical loop, there. And yes, it is silly. It makes no sense. This really makes the elemental weapon seem like a nerfy spell.
However, a fireball does 8d6 damage in one action. A paladin with elemental weapon can do an extra 2d4+2 over six rounds. At maximum damage, the fireball will do 48 and the elemental weapon will do 60 in addition to the weapon damage of the Paladin.
All in all, elemental weapon does not need to be any more powerful. This was the lesson we learned from 3e.
Does Elemental Weapon Work With Artificer Infusions?
No. Artificer Infusions make the object a magical item, which means that elemental weapon will not work.
Does Elemental Weapon Work With Sorcery Points?
If you have sorcery points, yes, you can use them on elemental weapon to speed up the casting or to extend the duration.
Here is a quick chart for what the effects of each Metamagic will be on elemental weapon:
What Is the Best Elemental Combination?
The best combination of elemental damage is the one that overcomes the resistance of the monster you are facing. For flavor, however, you will want to consider your alignment and the source of your magical power. If you are a dragonborn, you should consider matching your elemental weapon with your breath weapon. If you are a Shadar-Kai or a Yuan-Ti, you should try Cold or Poison, respectively.
Always try to give your character that feeling of completion that comes when the mechanics and the flavor line up. It doesn’t get much better than that.
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Rich is an avid D&D player and DM. He has been playing since the Advanced Dungeons & Dragons 1st and 2nd editions. He has run campaigns of various editions with family and friends for over 20 years. Playing DnD 5th Edition in person at local game stores and online with VTT’s over the past 10 years has provided a consistent connection to how the game has grown. He strongly believes in understanding the source material, but catering the games to your individual players. Feel free to ask anything in the comments or drop him an email: [email protected].